01/23/2013 6:51PM

Woodbine reaches tentative agreement with the Ontario government


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Woodbine Entertainment Group announced Wednesday that it has reached an agreement in principle with the Ontario government that will ensure the continuation of live racing at Woodbine and Mohawk racetracks for the next two years.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced last February that its racetrack slots programs, a partnership which saw 10 percent of net proceeds go to the racetracks and another 10 percent to the horsemen for purses, would be discontinued as of March 31, 2013.  Revenue generated by Woodbine’s casino, which has more than 2,500 slot machines, has been the driving force behind the dramatic growth in purses at the track over the past decade.

A subsequent report, commissioned by the government, recommended that horse racing in the province should get some transitional funding to help make the industry viable in the post-slots era.

A news conference that will provide details of the agreement is scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m. Eastern in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame at Woodbine.

“This long-awaited agreement offers stability while WEG and our partners in horse racing work with government towards a long-term sustainability solution,” said Jim Lawson, WEG’s chairmen of the board. “It’s clear to us that this is only a short-term fix, and sustainability can only be achieved by the integration of horse racing into the province’s gaming strategy. As the largest operator of horse racing in Canada, WEG is committed to working with the government to achieve this critical outcome.”


Senor Enrico More than 1 year ago
Now all the US racinos need to follow. What gives horse racing the right to benifit from money wagered at casinos? Purse distribution has to be in line with overall handle. We are padding the pockets of horse owners (who on average are in the top 5% of wage earners) and we need the money to go where it is really needed (education, security, social programs, etc). Does an allowance race at Saratoga need tp go for 85K instead of 50K? Does Sheik Mohamed or all the millionaires that win these races need the extra money? Time to end the casino - horse racing relationship!
Brian Russell More than 1 year ago
Senor, You can't see the forest for the trees. The money Woodbine and their horseman received from slots was essentially rent paid by the Ontario lottery. If the Ontario lottery opens their own facility to replace the one at Woodbine, they will have to pay rent, utilities and the salaries of the staff which are costs now all borne by Woodbine.
catinabox More than 1 year ago
I'm a horse owner, and believe me, I'm NOT in the top 5%. And about 95% of the horse owners at Hastings aren't either.
Pamela Barnard More than 1 year ago
Same here. I am a group of 9 who raced at Woobine the last two years. I have less funds now than when I started. Our group was waiting to see what happened. We may consider getting another horse now but not rich just love the horses and the game.
catinabox More than 1 year ago
Exactly, right? That's why we all do it. Our purses here are less than 1/2 of Woodbine's but we make it work because we be lovin' it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Look forward to the SPECIFICS of this tempory repreive. It would have been nice if the each track in Ontario that had slots were able to keep the ones they have. Slots at the race track need to viewed as another product that track offers. Just like milk at the food store. Each track should have been allowed to live with the revenue split of the machines in their track. Never should the Gov't be your partner. Tax revenue yes. Control your companies destiny NO. RD Btr
Jim Pitura More than 1 year ago
Cooler heads prevail, look forward to many more seasons of Class 1 racing.
Justin Time More than 1 year ago
Let us all hold our breath until Thursday and find out what is really on the table. Horse racing at Woodbine is out of control because greed and squander were the main characters in this melodrama. Woodbine needs to come back down to earth and if they are really serious of saving horse racing in Ontario, then they should pay close attention to changing the racing surface and remove that garbage called poly to generate more betting interests. The government should also insist on the removal of fees charged to clients for cashing their tickets which are as high as 6% on off tracks in California. The great priomotion to push for pool sharing with the US tracks was nothing but a hoax to snatch more money from their clients and this Ontario Government must insist ought to be stopped. Before any agreement could be beneficial for horse racing the Government must take the initiative and ensure accountability into how the monies are being distributed and enforce regular auditing.by the CPMA. Let's ensure that nepotism in employment for example 5 relatives are a thing of the past, Collusion in contracts and maintenance fees are guarded and betting rings that exist today will no longer be tolerated. Whatever happend to the Ontario Racing Commission or the Canadian Pari Mutuel Agency under the direct responsibility of the Auditor General.
Wayne Haehner More than 1 year ago
Mohawk lives--thanks to the racing gods
Wayne Haehner More than 1 year ago
Mohawk lives--thank you
chairmanwong0 More than 1 year ago
Ah....the fine balance between giving money to corporate racetracks and millionaire horesemen or funding our hospitals and schools. Survival of the fittest! If the industry can't survive on its own. Time to shut it down.
martymar . More than 1 year ago
that is a pretty asinine statement to make that assumption that all it benefits are rich owners everthing in the industry were affected and thousands of jobs were affected.
Kristian O'Reilly More than 1 year ago
Never quite understood why ELIMINATE a program that benefited all parties involved as opposed to a MODIFIED approach. This is good for Ontario and Canada. Now if New Jersey, California, Kentucky and Illinois can cut a similar deal, then horse racing as a whole will be the force it can be going forward.I'm just saying......
Donald More than 1 year ago
I remember when a stake race was $50k,now its high claimers,anything the govt touches will inevitably get screwed up,but purses could be reduced and still not jeopardise racing,the jug heads are really in a bind,the purse structure there is low enough
catinabox More than 1 year ago
I think the government is assinine for cancelling the slots at racetrack program, instead of being so narrow minded, and greedy, they could have just bargained with the tracks to lower the percentage paid to the tracks. But at the same time, the purses at Woodbine are out of control. There is no reason why they need to be THAT high. I mean Maiden Special Weight races going 4.5 furlongs for 2 year olds have $60,000 purses? Maiden Claiming $12,500, going 6 furlongs, $24,000 purse. Here at Hastings, our allowance races are $27,000, our Stakes start at $50,000 purses. Now granted, Hastings doesn't have the slots revenue that Woodbine has, or the live handle amount, but we all survive on these amounts. It's crazy that Woodbine has purses that are so high. They could easily take a 25% purse cut, if not more, and still survive quite well. The horsemen need to stop claiming that they will be wiped out, they just need to tighten their belts like horsemen and many other tracks have already been doing for year.s
Pamela Barnard More than 1 year ago
I agree that the government could have come to the tracks first and requested a reduction from 10% to horsemen and 10% to track to something in the 5-7% range. The way it was handled so far was just dumb. The government would have still had a huge amount of money come in for the tax coffers and not have to host the slot parlours themselves or where ratepayers don't want them. What it did was killed one of the best standardbred programs around and an improving thoroughbred program. Most of the best studs have left. The majority of the good thoroughbred studs have left or have been sold as well. It will be difficult to get the breeding program back to anywhere near what it was especially for the standardbreds. Losing jobs and sending stallions and broodmares out of country did not help anyone, including the taxpayers of the province.